Christian Keyes is a force — both in the courtroom starring as Charlie Riggs for his new show In Contempt on BET (www.bet.com) and as a dedicated actor taking his craft to the next level. The series portrays the court of law from the public defender’s point of view set in NYC, which makes for interesting courtroom drama. Christian Keyes is an extremely handsome and driven actor who is always up for a challenge to learn, to grow, and to expand his awareness. Christian has an infectious energy that he brings to every role he plays which comes through onscreen. Keyes makes it look so effortless, then again, that’s the point. It’s also the sign of an authentic artist. The audience genuinely enjoys watching Christian as Charlie Riggs, his chemistry with Gwen Sullivan (played by the beautiful and headstrong Erica Ash), and how he handles himself in the courtroom and in his personal life.
Photo: DEAN FOREMAN
Christian Keyes was born in Detroit but raised in Flynt, Michigan. He got his start in the entertainment industry by appearing in stage plays. Next came television and film. Since his introduction as an actor, he has added singer, author, and producer to his resume. His charming and exotic looks derive from the combination of his parents. His father is African American and his mother is Native American/French. Keyes has been a working actor for years. From 2011-2014, Keyes had a recurring role on the BET comedy series Let’s Stay Together. He also appeared in the Ashanti music video, ‘The Way That I Love You.‘ In 2016, Keyes was cast in the Bounce TV prime time soap opera Saints and Sinners.
When he had a quick moment to stop, Christian spoke with Gemma Magazine and we could not be happier.
GM: Hi Christian! Thank you for joining Gemma! People love your character Charlie Riggs on In Contempt. Do you see Charlie as the ‘player’ that he is perceived as (professionally and personally)?
CK: Thank you as well! Charlie wants people to think it’s effortless for him, but in reality, it’s not that simple. Yes, he is witty, a good lawyer, and very intelligent, but he also has many defense mechanisms. There are many layers to him that have not been revealed yet. It’s known that Gwen cares above and beyond about her cases and works herself to death, but Charlie cares too. Charlie may act cocky, but he is way more vulnerable than the audience may know.
GM: I know that you really enjoy being challenged as an actor through each character that you play. What challenges you the most as Charlie?
CK: The legal jargon. I was very intrigued by it and you really have to study hard so that it looks and sounds natural. You must know the laws. Believe it or not, not everyone does. Overall, many people do not always know their rights as a citizen. It has definitely been a fantastic learning experience to get an in-depth look at the justice system. Our show was created by an amazing woman Terri Kopp, who worked for a Legal Aid Society in Manhattan. That makes for rich material and quality script writing to draw upon from her real-life experiences. At the same time, a fair amount of comic relief is added to keep it light so the audience can laugh too.
Photo: DEAN FOREMAN
GM: Let’s talk the about the chemistry between you and Gwen. They both seem confident. Do you think either one feels “I could have this person in a minute?
CK: Not at all! Both have their guard up. They have a “friends with benefits” relationship and that works for them. There is also a history between them and Charlie is Gwen’s Supervisor. So for now, neither one is ready for a real relationship. I think when Bennet (Gwen’s ex-law professor) enters the picture, Charlie experiences real jealousy and his true feelings for Gwen became much more clear to himself.
GM: It’s always good to leave the audience open to their own interpretation. Yet is there something you would like them to take from the show?
It’s a realistic look at the justice system (with some heightened reality obviously) and it shows you that the system is not on your side. Something needs to change. These characters are fighting to defend the people that do not have the money or high power connections to walk free. Also, I really respect how the characters own their flaws. Gwen does not take care of herself, drinks way too many energy drinks, and has panic attacks. However, it is not hidden. That is a refreshing conceptual approach.
GM: I saw a clip where you were speaking about your “signature style.” You basically said it consisted of studying and preparing so much that you resent it. Then you know you’re ready. Personally, I thought was beautiful. Can you explain?
CK: I like to be prepared. Overstudy to the point where you can’t look at it again. Then you can play with the material, get creative, and stay on point while still leaving room for some vulnerability of course. I did not come to Los Angeles to party. My goal was to work as an actor and to keep growing creatively. I want to grow in more areas than acting as well. I am currently working on my 3rd album and have written two books.
GM: I enjoy following In Contempt Writer’s Room on Twitter as well as In Contempt BET. It’s great how engaged they are with the audience and it’s always a tweet to look forward to.
CK: Exactly! BET has been wonderful and went all out for the show. Again, we shoot in Toronto. On the set, they built a real courtroom, which is beautiful and feels like a vintage courtroom. The jail cells are real as well. It only adds to be immersed in the series for the cast and the entire crew.
GM: You also play Michael (an Archangel from the Apocalypse World) on Supernatural on CWTV (http://www.cwtv.com). You debuted in the 13th season. How do you juggle it all?
CK: Well, it definitely takes a team and I have a good one. Again, it also consists of many hours of preparation, the right balance, and taking care of yourself. If I have a premiere, I will not be the last one to leave.
When you do stop for a second, what do you do for fun?
CK: I actually consider myself a nerd but I like to stay active. I enjoy concerts, hiking, and going to museums. I especially enjoy spending time with my son. Supernatural is shot in Vancouver, British Columbia and In Contempt is shot in Toronto so a lot of traveling is involved. So when I’m in LA, I enjoy exploring the city.
GM: Do you have a legal drama that you enjoy watching?
CK: Law and Order! The writing, acting and directing is so high quality. Also, the show has stayed true to its format (even though many characters have come and gone). There is that constant thread of authenticity. There is something to be said for that consistency.
GM: Tell us about your role in the nonprofit organization, Great Beginnings.
CK: Great Beginnings is an organization that provides support for foster children. I actually grew up in the foster system. It was not easy but I do not define myself by my past. I genuinely enjoy giving back to organizations like these that mean so much. With Great Beginnings, we get together and spend an afternoon with the kids just having fun. It’s a blast. Last time, we went to see Black Panther and it was a great experience. Anytime I have the opportunity to give back, it is something that I cherish.
GM: Do you feel there will be a season 2? I know the audience wants one.
CK: I definitely hope so. The fan feedback has been wonderful. BET has been great and super supportive. I want to say we are headed in that direction but can’t just yet.
What is Charlie Riggs up to tonight? You must watch!! In Contempt in on every Tuesday at 10pm/9C on BET. Do not miss it! I thank Christian Keyes for taking the time to speak with us.
You can keep up with Christian on social media through the following links: